What Is A Lateral In Football?
In American football, a lateral is a pass in which the ball is thrown parallel to the line of scrimmage instead of being thrown forward. This pass can be used to advance the ball down the field or to avoid being tackled behind the line of scrimmage. Laterals are often used near the end of a game when one team is trying to preserve a lead and run out of the clock.
Types of Laterals
There are two types of laterals: live ball and dead ball. A live-ball lateral happens while the play is still alive, meaning the receiving player can gain yardage after catching the ball. A dead-ball lateral happens after the play has been whistled dead, usually due to an incomplete pass or a turnover. Dead-ball laterals cannot result in a first down or score.
Laterals are not considered forward passes, so they do not count toward the limit of four forward passes that a team can attempt per play. This means a team can lateral the ball as often as they want during a single play. However, there are some restrictions on how and when laterals can be thrown. For example, a player cannot lateral the ball to himself and must be thrown behind the line of scrimmage.
Why Might They Occur?
When a player laterals the ball in football, they usually try to avoid being tackled by the defense. These passes are also often used to keep the play alive when no other options are available.
Sometimes, players will lateral the ball to another player in a better position to make a play or score a touchdown. Players sometimes may lateral the ball simply because they are trying to create confusion among the defense and give their team an advantage.